Many people are surprised that talking to a stranger can have such a beneficial effect, but the research has proven time and time again that talk therapy is beneficial to those suffering from a wide variety of issues. Research has also shown that the therapeutic approach (e.g., CBT, psychodynamic, solution-focused, et cetera) does not make much of a difference, either. This has been called the “Dodo Bird Verdict,” a reference to the character from Alice in Wonderland who proclaims “All have won and must have prizes.”
Even though people have been practicing therapy over 100 years, many of the fundamental techniques have not changed much. Early in his career, Freud tried curing patients with hysteria by hypnotizing them and suggesting what they should do to solve their issues. However, he eventually replaced this method with one he found to be far more effective at surfacing unconscious material — what he called “free association.” Free association, in layman’s terms, is basically saying everything that comes to mind.
Most approaches today still rely on this basic insight of Freud’s, that talking freely and openly to a person who is trained to help you talk freely and openly can have immediate and long-lasting effects. Why is this? We’ll explore that in our next few posts.